Members of the Class of 2024 should read  Curiosity: Susquehanna University Common Reading Anthology 2020-2021 and complete a written assignment before arriving on campus (see instructions below). Here is a glimpse of some of what you will find in the anthology:

  • A tragicomic meditation on how math should (and should not) be taught in school, introduced by Assistant Professor of Mathematics Alathea Jensen
  • An interview with Emily Graslie, Chief Curiosity Correspondent for Chicago’s Field Museum, introduced by Associate Professor John Bodinger, department head of Sociology and Anthropology
  • A history of the Mars rover by Atlantic staff writer Megan Garber, introduced by Assistant Professor of Physics Jennifer Carter
  • An excerpt from Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, introduced by Associate Professor of Neurobiology Erin Rhinehart
  • The poem “Sometimes” by beloved American poet Mary Oliver
  • An undergraduate literary essay about the children’s book series Curious George, introduced by Catherine Zobal Dent, coordinator of the common reading program
  • A lyrical essay called “On the Fatal Effects of Female Curiosity and Disobedience” by Lily Hoang, introduced by Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Hasanthika Sirisena

The anthology is distributed at Orientation for new  students.

Important links

Common Reading Lecture

Emily Graslie
Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020—7:30 p.m., via Zoom (see below for details)

Emily Graslie was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. After moving to Missoula, Montana, to pursue an undergraduate degree in fine art painting, she fell in love with the campus vertebrate research collection as a place of artistic inspiration. What started off as a passionate volunteering position within a small museum eventually transformed into a full-time career as an advocate for these under-appreciated repositories. Now she lives in Chicago and works as The Field Museum's "Chief Curiosity Correspondent," where she uses a variety of new media to communicate the importance of natural history museums with the world.

The Common Reading Lecture will take place on Zoom. Current students, faculty, and staff can access the Zoom information on Common Reading MySU page. Selinsgrove area community members are welcome to attend, and can register here.

Emily Grasile

Summer Writing Assignment: Curiosity

In her poem “Sometimes,” Mary Oliver gives three instructions “for living a life”:

  • Pay attention.
  • Be astonished.
  • Tell about it.

This writing assignment is an invitation for you to reread certain of these texts in the spirit of Mary Oliver and then to “tell about it.” Did you pay close attention to one or two of the readings? Which ones? Why? Did anything from the readings astonish you? What? How?

In the form of a letter to your Perspective Instructor (or Global Business Perspectives, or Honors, or Living Learning Community), share your response to selected readings in this anthology. Your instructor will collect this letter during the first week of classes.

In your letter, include some of the following details: where you are from, your family, your interests, circumstances or events that have influenced who you are, what matters to you personally or academically, what astonishes you about life in general. Show the connections between your experience and the readings on curiosity.

The assignment should be typed, double-spaced, and 2-3 pages long. You should be paraphrasing (or quoting directly) from the book, so please put the last names of the authors and the page numbers in parentheses whenever referencing them in your letter. Here's an example of how you might do this:

Since my early childhood, I’ve had an irrational fear of tomatoes, so I was astonished to learn that “fears and rumors of the plant’s potential poison lingered” in the United States up into the 1800s (Smith 68).

Even though this is an academic assignment to be collected, write in a personal voice. It’s a great chance for your instructor to get to know you as you begin your college career.

“Curiosity” by Alathea Jensen, assistant professor of mathematics

Learning starts with questions, and questions start with curiosity. When we were children, we were curious about everything, so much so that our parents lost patience with us at times. "Why?" we wondered. Now our students sigh and roll their eyes when a question starts with "Why?" What happened to that childlike spirit of curiosity?

Albert Einstein said, "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education," and, "The important thing is to not stop questioning." A person without curiosity is like a mushroom, sitting in the dark and eating you-know-what. A person with curiosity is like a tree straining to reach the light. Just as saplings send their roots questing through the earth in search of sustenance and their branches grasping into the sky in search of light, curiosity motivates us to seek out knowledge, experiences, and perspectives that can sustain us for a lifetime.

We invite students, faculty, and staff to nominate texts to be included in Adaptability: Susquehanna University Common Reading Anthology 2021-2022. See the winning theme proposal by Hannah C. Lyons below.

Current students, faculty, and staff can make nominations for Common Reading Anthology on the Provost’s page on mySU. Alumni and community members can make nominations using this form.

All types of material will be considered including book excerpts, articles, reviews, stories, essays, poems, plays and non-linguistic (visual, musical, etc.) texts. Nominations are due by November 1, 2020.

Call for Nominations: Adaptability by Hannah C. Lyons, class of ‘20

The Common Reading Program invites nominations for texts related to the theme of Adaptability as proposed by Hannah C. Lyons (’20). In Hannah’s words: “Learning to be adaptable and flexible in your environment can provide you with new opportunities to further yourself. Especially transitioning into college life, adaptability is totally necessary for success.” 

As Hannah pointed out, change is inevitable. Sometimes change is scary or difficult to accept, but adaptability is a necessary aspect of life that helps us to survive and advance our growth in education, careers, relationships, travels, and everything in between. Consider the chameleon, which relies on its ability to adapt to changes in its environment in various ways, including altering its color and pattern. As Charles Darwin famously said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” 

We experience adaptability in many ways, such as transitioning to college life, finding a job post-graduation, or even adapting to the conditions of COVID-19. We may adapt when we encounter different cultures and people who provide us with new perspectives and as we learn from and support one another. Adaptability is not just a question of surviving, but thriving; adaptability in various situations and environments provides new opportunities to further ourselves and succeed. 

We welcome nominations from all disciplines and in a wide variety of print and digital genres. We are especially interested in texts written by authors who could be considered for the 2021 Common Reading Lecture, and in texts written by various community members. Nominations should be submitted by November 1.  

The tradition of selecting a year-long university theme began at Susquehanna University in 2003 with the purpose of creating opportunities for diverse members of the community to develop dialogue around a central idea or question. Past themes have included key words such as “resilience,” “conflict,” “technology,” “memory” and “water,” and have brought these ideas and more to the center of conversation and exploration at the university.

Faculty, staff, and students involved in the Common Reading Program create a new book each year that centers on the university theme that has been selected. Stories, poems, essays, reports, scholarly articles, and other texts appear alongside introductions written by members of the SU community. The anthology is used in a variety of ways during students’ first semester on campus, including during Welcome Week and in classrooms. Events, such as the annual Common Reading Lecture, bring authors of the texts to campus, and an online Reading and Teaching Guide offers additional means of interacting with the materials.

We hope the Common Reading Program will engage you in lively conversations and challenge you to think critically. It is an introduction to life in a community of learners, where we are all participate in discussion and reflection on texts and ideas. We invite you to explore the various theme-based events and activities that occur throughout the academic year.


Theme: The Power of Stories

Speaker: Keith E. Edwards, scholar and educator on sexual violence prevention, men's identity, college men's issues, social justice education, and leadership


Theme: Resilience

Speakers: Holly Rogers, founder of the Center for Koru Mindfulness® and psychiatrist at Duke University

Derrick Brooms, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at the University of Cincinnati and author of Black Men Emerging

Martín Espada, poet, editor, essayist and translator and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, author of Alabanza: New and Selected Poems


Theme: Conflict
Speaker: Hanna Rosin, journalist and co-host of NPR's Invisibilia


Theme: Passion
Speaker: Natalie Zemon Davis, author of A Passion for History and professor of history at the University of Toronto


Theme: Adventure
Speaker: Edwidge Danticat, author of Krik? Krak!


Theme: Humor
Speaker: John Morreal, author of Humor Works


Theme: Technology in our Lives
Speaker: Brian Christian, author of The Most Human Human


Theme: Freedom and Responsibility
Speaker: Lori Andrews, author of I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy


Theme: Fear
Speaker: David Ropeik, author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts


Theme: A Sustainable Future
Speaker: Chris Uhl, author of Developing Ecological Consciousness: Path to a Sustainable World


Theme: What does it mean to be educated?
Speaker: AJ Jacobs, author of A Year of Living Biblically


Theme: Memory
Speaker: Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier


Theme: Water
Speaker: Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry: Water - the Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century


Theme: On the Fringes
Speaker: Eric Schlosser, author of Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market